The acid/alkaline balance of the body’s tissues and fluids is measured by the pH value. While some parts of the human body are naturally acidic (like the stomach) or alkaline (e.g. saliva), the blood and the rest of the body are slightly alkaline, with a normal pH value between 7.35 and 7.45. When the pH is normal, body cells are in homeostasis, i.e. they easily receive nutrients and release waste. However, the body can be too alkaline, which causes health problems, but that is rare. Acidity is more common, which allows disease-causing microbes to grow, and damages joints, tissues, organs and the immune system. It also decreases the body’s ability to repair damaged cells, causes chronic fatigue, encourages tumors to grow, and impairs the excretion of heavy metals.
How to tell if you are acidic
Your pH will tell you if you are acidic. To know your pH, test your saliva or urine first thing in the morning using pH strips from your local pharmacy. Also keep track of how you feel. When you are too acidic, you may feel a lot of tiredness even after a full night’s sleep. You may experience irritability, brain fog, chronic pain, a stiff neck, headaches, joint pain, flu-like symptoms (runny nose and watery eyes), weight gain, frequent burning urine, dry skin and premature aging.
How to increase alkalinity
Considering all the harmful effects of body acidity, it is wise to deliberately keep the body slightly alkaline to prevent many diseases. There are several ways of increasing the body’s alkalinity.
1. Avoid/reduce acid-producing foods. It is not easy to entirely avoid acid-producing foods, but you can at least reduce their intake. These include all meats, eggs, dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt), refined flour products, sugar, sodas, chocolate, coffee, and processed cereals. These foods have a high acid load on the kidneys. (1). In one study, people with chronic kidney disease avoided these foods and their symptoms improved. (2). Avoid or reduce intake of alcohol, which interferes with the kidneys’ ability to get rid of acids. (3). You can then neutralize the low level of acidity with alkaline foods and drinks.
2. Drink water with lemon or soda. Start your day with a tall glass of water with lemon or soda. This will hydrate you, encourage defoxification through the liver, and become alkaline after digestion.
3. Eat more high alkaline foods regularly. Add to your diet all types of vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts. While they are alkaline in the body, they also contain a long list of nutrients, antioxidants and other phytochemicals that the body needs for optimal health.
- Dark green vegetables – Dark green vegetables are alkaline, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. Add kale, mustard greens, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, spinach, broccoli, etc. to main meals, salads, juices and smoothies.
- Other vegetables – Regularly eat eggplant, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, yams, carrots, strawberries, cauliflower, bok choy and celery.
- Legumes – Include beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas which provide all the amino acids the body requires without causing much acidity.
- Fruits – Focus on more neutral fruits such as apples, olives, bananas, avocadoes, strawberries, other berries and coconuts.
- Nuts – Eat raw unsalted nuts daily when you feel like snacking. For example, raw almonds are rich in calcium and magnesium which are alkaline.
- Seeds – Eat raw seeds such as hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. as snacks or in salads, smoothies and main meals. Besides being alkaline in the body, they contain omega-3s which reduce inflammation and have many other health benefits. (4).
- Whole grains – These will make the body slightly acidic but they have more nutrients than refined flour. Eat small amounts for energy.
4. Take multivitamin supplements. Many vitamins, especially vitamins A and C, will alkalize the body while strengthening body cells and boosting the immune system. Vitamin D alkalizes the body and improves calcium absorption. If you are not getting enough from food and the sun, then take supplements. But also check with your health care professional before taking any new supplements.
5. Manage your stress. Stress is a normal part of life but chronic stress will harm your health by constantly producing acid-forming hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. To manage temporary stress, practice meditation, yoga and deep breathing. Find ways to resolve conflicts at work or at home to reduce chronic stress. If you cannot resolve them, leave the job, the marriage or the relationship to remove the stressor and become more alkaline.
6. Walk or perform other cardio exercises. A brisk walk, cycling or jogging will reduce stress and help to move acidic wastes stuck in the organs by encouraging sweating. Do it daily or several times per week. If you don’t have discipline, ask a friend to exercise with you.
7. Breathe deeply regularly. Slow deep breathing increases the intake of oxygen and gets rid of enough carbon dioxide to leave the blood alkaline. Therefore, make it a habit to sit up straight and breathe slowly and deeply, moving the belly up and down.
Does increased alkalinity reduce inflammation?
Inflammation is a normal response to injury and it is part of the healing process. However, chronic inflammation anywhere in the body is linked to high acidity. It can have symptoms such as sinus problems, chronic fatigue, migraines, headaches and digestive tract problems. It is a precursor to arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome and dozens of other inflammatory conditions and chronic diseases.
Since inflammation is linked to acidity of the body, it makes sense to increase alkalinity in order to reduce inflammation. Studies have found that increasing alkalinity has many benefits, with the major one being reduction of inflammation. (1). By reducing inflammation, it can even reverse cancer in the body, as found in a 2010 study which involved eating an alkaline diet. (5). It also prevents muscle loss, bone loss and heart disease. (6, 7) and it increases levels of the human growth hormone which improves memory and learning and supports healthy body composition.
It is wise to alkalize the body to counter the acidic impact of some food and lifestyle choices. The ultimate goal should be balance.As we know, it is not easy to entirely get rid of acidic foods or stress, aim for 25% acid-forming foods and 75% alkaline-forming foods and make an effort to exercise, meditate and breathe deeply every day.
1. Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. 2012. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?
2. Passey, Caroline. Jan, 2017. Journal of Renal Nutrition. Reducing the Dietary Acid Load: How a More Alkaline Diet Benefits Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease.
3. Lieber Charles S. Aug, 1965. Arthritis & Rhematology. Hyperuricemia induced by alcohol.
4. Calder, PC. (2006, June). American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases.
5. Gonzalez Carlos A and Riboli Elio. Sep, 2010. European Journal of Cancer. Diet and cancer prevention: Contributions from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study.
6. Dawson-Hughes Bess, Harris Susan S and Ceglia Lisa. Mar, 1987. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Alkaline Diets Favor Lean Tissue Mass in Older Adults.
7. Welch A. A., MacGregor A. J., Skinner J., Spector T. D., Moayyeri A., & Cassidy A. Nov, 2012. Osteoporosis International. A higher alkaline dietary load is associated with greater indexes of skeletal muscle mass in women.